Local judges in Pennsylvania have a substantial influence over the criminal legal system–and not just in a criminal trial. How judges use their discretion throughout the process can make an enormous difference in how long a defendant remains in jail after the arrest, whether a case is strong enough to move forward, the length and nature of a convicted defendant's sentence, and more.
Because the local judge's power and discretion are so considerable, it's crucial to have a local Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who has a thorough knowledge of the local court system and who has a thorough understanding of the local judges. A local attorney will know the peculiarities of the various judges, the unwritten rules of their courtrooms, and will know how to argue your case accordingly.
Here are the three most important ways that judges can influence your case–and how a local attorney can help you achieve the best result possible.
Pennsylvania judges have the authority to set bail
Bail is the cash, bond, or property that a defendant gives to the court to release them from jail after the arrest until their trial. Bail is intended to ensure the defendant's return to court when ordered to do so. If the defendant fails to appear on the appointed date, the court may keep the bail and issue an arrest warrant.
Pennsylvania judges have the discretion to decide whether bail is necessary for a particular defendant, and if so, the amount the defendant must put up. When deciding to allow bail or set an amount, Pennsylvania judges are required to consider all available information relevant to someone's ability to appear to subsequent proceedings and comply with bail conditions. Denial of bail should never be for punitive reasons or solely to detain a person before the trial.
If the court seeks to impose a bail amount disproportionate to the crime or deny bail, a local Pennsylvania lawyer can provide vigorous representation at your bail hearing, and use their knowledge of the judge's perspective and tendencies to make a compelling argument on your behalf.
Pennsylvania judges have influence over preliminary hearings and motions
A preliminary hearing is usually the first court proceeding occurring after your arrest. In Pennsylvania, a magisterial district judge has the power to determine whether the evidence the prosecution sets forth against you is minimally sufficient for the case to move forward. The judge also may decide the kind of evidence they might allow the prosecutor to present or exclude during the hearing.
Beyond the prelim hearing, the judge also has the discretion to delay the trial (thereby potentially extending the amount of time a person who has not made bail remains in prison) or dismiss the case.
Pennsylvania judges have discretion over sentencing and probation
If you are convicted of a crime, judges in the Courts of Common Pleas have immense discretion regarding sentencing. The judges decide whether to send you to prison or put you on probation and will determine the length of time you should serve in either situation. The judges set the conditions for probation, including burdensome conditions, such as curfew checks, random drug and alcohol testing, travel restrictions, and electronic monitoring, among others. In Pennsylvania, probation can last as long as the maximum sentence for the offense.
Need a local Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer?
Clearly, the judge's power can impact your life in numerous vital ways. You need every advantage possible to ensure that the judge views you favorably and uses their discretion to your benefit. A local Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer experienced with the judge and local court system will know how to use this knowledge to help get the best result for you.
Talk to Pennsylvania attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm. The Lento Law Firm's years of experience in the Pennsylvania court system can make a difference. Reach out today via 888-535-3686 or courtesy of the Firm's online form.